Guest Review: Game of Souls (The Quintessence Cycle #1) by Terry C. Simpson

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Your soul is your magic. The nobility will stop at nothing to steal it.

Keedar Giorin still remembers the night soldiers killed his mother. The Night of Blades. He was three, but the memories are written in his mind in blood, flames, scales, and his mother’s mad cackles.

Assigned by his father to save two young noblemen or risk a repeat of the massacre on his home in the Smear, Kasandar’s most lawless district, Keedar dives headlong into the mission. He uses his most secret skill, a magic that could bring the King’s Blades hunting him, a magic that could be a death sentence if reported to the wrong ears.

But even that risk is part of his father’s calculated plan. A plot to determine who was behind his mother’s death, while securing a new ally for their guild, and seeing their people rise from squalor and oppression to strive for the identity and power they have all but forgotten.

Plans, however, do not always follow the path drawn out. What will Keedar do when a count takes interest in his magic? Where will he run to when the hunt begins? Can a young man now growing into his power find a way to defeat the most ruthless of assassins?

As he watches the accursed Day of Accolades take away more children from the Smear, Keedar promises that one day he’ll stop the nobles’ exploitation of the under classes. On the same day, he encounters Winslow, a noble risking the Smear to win a chance to train with the King’s Blades. Together they become caught in a dangerous game of power, the Game of Souls.

The world the author has created in Game of Souls is fairly well sketched out. In the continent in which the story takes place there are several racial groups or kingdoms that are either at war or uneasily at peace. Our story is set mainly in the city of Kasandar in the kingdom, Kasinia. A map is thoughtfully included for the times when place names and races become a little confusing.
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Summer Reads

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A wonderful thing happened in class today.  My students asked me to show them a few summer movie previews.  What is so special about that, you ask?  All three movies were based on books.  Bothey more than half the students had

read!  It inspired a vlog post and was the reason I, for the first time in my 15 year teaching career, has to be kicked out of my own classroom?!  One of the movie previews was of Catching Fire, and as I haven’t read the Hunger Games yet, the kids were adamant I avoid all spoilers.  The book nerd in me was beside herself with joy!  

 

Please give the vlog a try, and leave me suggestions for my July reads!  I’d love to expand my reading horizons!

 

 

Review: Penelope: A Madcap Regency Romance by Anya Wylde

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Penelope: A Madcap Regency Romance3.5 Stars

I wasn’t really sure what to expect from this one going in, but I will admit that I was pleasantly surprised. I enjoyed the story much more than I thought that I would, especially considering that, despite what MrsJ claims, I am not really a romance reader. Occasionally I’ll dip a toe into romance, but it’s not really my genre of choice.

So, I actually liked this. It was a bit over the top, and in the middle I started feeling like it was getting repetitive with the antics and mishaps, but, thankfully, the book overheard me, and moved along.

I thought that the characters were fleshed out pretty well, and I liked seeing things from both Penelope’s and Charles’ perspectives. I particularly enjoyed Madame Bellafraunde. She reminded me quite a lot of Lord Akeldama from the Parasol Protectorate series by Gail Carriger… Only, you know, not vampiric. Apparently I find Fashionistas in Regency fiction appealing, despite being abysmally fashion-backwards myself.

I enjoyed the progression of the story, though the ending felt a little rushed. But I thought that the tension was done well, and that the little chips in Charles’ ice-facade were well-placed and mostly well-timed. His situation, with Lydia, was a little coincidental, but of course it had to be something. I did think that his history though was a little much. It’s a little much to believe that Charles would have fallen so many times for so many different women, all of whom would try the exact same snare tactic in such a short period of time. I think it would have really only needed one to put Charles’ guard up, not 3 or 4 or… however many there really were.

I also noticed several typos and misused words in the text. For instance, “bucked” was used instead of “bucket”, “peak” instead of “peek”, and “breath” instead of “breathe”. “Of” and “off” were mixed up more than once as well. I noticed that the frequency of typos increased the further along in the story I got – the beginning was quite clean and well edited.

Overall, this was a fun read, and I enjoyed it. I’d recommend it to fans of Regency romance easily.

Disclaimer: I received a free e-book copy of this book for review from the author.

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Song of the Beast by Carol Berg

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Aidan: the most talented bard of his generation, beloved of gods, follower of dragons and cousin to the king, is imprisoned and tortured for 17 years.

Why? Aidan is clueless.

Song of the Beast follows Aidan as he struggles to live after 17 years of torture and abuse. It also focuses on Aidan’s journey to learn why he was imprisoned.

I didn’t expect to like this book. When I read the blurb I thought, “Sounds sad, not for me.” (I’m a wussy. No dark and gritty for me) The only reason I read this one was because it was the Fantasy Aficionados book of the month pick. As a Mod…I’m sorta supposed to participate. ;-)

After jumping through hoops galore to borrow this book from my library…I still put off reading it for a day or two. Finally, I sat down one day to thumb through it…and I looked up several hours later. Finished.

Carol Berg is a wonderful storyteller. The way she crafts her words are something to stand up and notice.

I was right…this is a sad story. Aidan is a ruined wreck of a body when he gets out of prison. His triumphs – for the most part – are far and very small. The story itself is rather bittersweet…and there’s some major betrayal going on. And that’s what makes Berg so powerful an author: I HATE everything I just mentioned in a book! Seriously, I am very much a wussy reader who hates sad stories. But I could not put this book down. I doubt that I’ll reread the entire book but I did reread a few sections and the end already (thus the 5 stars).

Spoiler Below. Highlight the words to read the spoiler – but be warned! This will spoil the entire book for you.

The way that Narim stalked and set up Aidan throughout his life was simply disgusting to me. Someone should done the world a favor and stuck a knife in his back.

Goblin Quest by Jim C. Hines

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I first heard about Jim C. Hines via a mention the Dear Author blog. Jim Hines created a hilarious poem based off of the early 1990′s controversial rap song Baby Got Back by Sir Mix-A-Lot. I laughed so hard when reading his poem Baby Got Books that I had to chase down his blog.

I learned that Jim Hines wrote comedic fantasy in the same vein as The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy and Another Fine Myth. Delighted, I poked around his back list to locate a good starting place. I decided to start with Goblin Quest and I’m so happy I did.

I’ve been in a bit of a reading funk this year. There’s not been much that has caught my attention. But this? This was wonderful! I had so much fun while still getting every single bit of a typical fantasy adventure. !!!

I loved Jig. He’s a great character. It was funny to read the point of view from someone who is normally considered “the bad guy.” Instead of being the bad guy, Jig is a totally awesome good guy. He helps others, he loves and cares, he’s smart and canny.

I’ve purchased the rest of the books in this series. I can’t wait to see what else is in store for Jig the Goblin Hero.

Geekomancy by Michael R. Underwood

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Have you ever read such a good [fantasy] book that by the end of it you believed in magic…if only a little? Or maybe watched Star Wars, episode 2 and walked away from it feeling that if you only found a Master and practiced your latent Jedi powers would manifest? What about reading one of Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden novels and then find yourself shopping for a trench coat and a skull? Or walking away from an episode of Firefly itching for a sixshooter and a spaceship…?

If so, this is the book for you. Geekomancy is a love song written by a geek for geeks. This book is pure comedy wish fulfillment for the person who wishes that the force really exists.

Ree Reyes is a screenwriter (see “barista”) who suddenly finds herself in a world in which magic exists…and that the geeky TV shows, books, movies and games that she has always loved powered that world.

Ree jumps into this newfound world of magic and danger with both feet…and of course she gets slapped sideways, lol. Ree has does has help, however. Her introduction to “Geekomancy” (the use of magic fueled from the world of Pop Culture) is by Eastwood, a scruffy old Geekomancer who becomes her mentor. She also hooks up with another character that totally stole the show for me, Drake, a Steampunk inventor and adventurer extraordinaire. I ♥ Drake. As you wish. ;-)

Ree and Eastwood’s task is simple (on the surface): find out who is causing a string of teenaged virgin suicides and stop them before they kill again. But…as anyone who’s ever read any Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Comic books or played any MMORPGs…things are never quite as simple as they seem.
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Blood, Smoke and Mirrors by Robyn Bachar

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Even a bad witch deserves a second chance.

Wrongly accused of using her magic to harm, the closest Catherine Baker comes to helping others is serving their coffee. Life as an outcast is nothing new, thanks to her father’s reputation, but the injustice stings. Especially since the man she loved turned her in.

Now the man has the gall to show up and suggest she become the next Titania? She’d rather wipe that charming grin off his face with a pot of hot java to the groin.

Alexander Duquesne has never faltered in his duties as a guardian — until now. The lingering guilt over Cat’s exile and the recent death of his best friend have shaken his dedication. With the murder of the old Titania, the faerie realm teeters on the brink of chaos. His new orders: keep Cat alive at all costs.

Hunted by a powerful stranger intent on drawing her into an evil web, Cat reluctantly accepts Lex’s protection and the resurrected desire that comes along with it. Lex faces the fight of his life to keep her safe…and win her back. If they both survive.

Warning: This book contains one tough and snarky witch, one gorgeous guardian, explicit blood drinking, magician sex, gratuitous violence against vampires and troublemaking Shakespearean faeries.

Please Note: There are some small spoilers in this review. If you want no spoilers at all, please do not read this review.

This book went down the crapper so quickly after 40% that it damn near gave me whiplash. O_o The difference between the two parts of this book are SO VAST that I have separated them: Book I, Part I and Book I, Part II

Book I, Part I (the first 40%) of this book is pretty damn good. There are some points that I issue with, however:

Why is Cat qualified to become Tatiana?? Why is she one of the only few in the world eligible? The author never says.

Cat makes lots of decisions without thinking. She told Lex to screw himself about her becoming Tatiana…but then changes her mind a page later for no reason and runs to do it. No explanation given to the reader for the abrupt 180 change of heart.

WTF is up with Lex turning Cat in to be tried (before book starts)? That isn’t cool. And then for him to get back with her by only saying, “I’m sorry, I didn’t think it would go down like that” was total BULLSHIT. Where was he for the last 3 years as she struggled to get by? There was NO GROVELLING. None at all!! Are you freaking SERIOUS?! She became an Outcast because her bf betrayed her and he didn’t even have to grovel?!?!? We had the ‘I love yous” happening by 40%. I call Shenanigans. I also do not buy their relationship. At all. And BTW, I actually kinda hated Lex.

This is the biggest issue I had with Book 1, part 1: Cat is the daughter of a witch and a necromancer. Her father killed her mother and tried to kill her. Her mother/guardian is killed when she was scheduled to be out all night. Her father wants world domination and is willing to go through her to get it. She is the only one able to stop her father. Cat has super strong powers that even she hasn’t explored the limits of.

Did that sound familiar to you? If you’ve ever read the Kate Daniels Series by Ilona Andrews then it sounded really, really familiar. But don’t get your hopes up, it’s not in the same league.

Other than the items I listed above…book I, part I is actually a pretty good (and fast) read. I’d give it 3.5 stars.

Then we have Book I, Part II (insert ominous music here)

WTF happened here???! After Cat kills her father and becomes the Tatiana it feels like an entirely new and completely different book starts. The damn thing even changed plot points! WTF. The entire section with the vampire Zach Harrison holding Cat hostage was BS. Why the fuck was she there to begin with? She makes such STUPID decisions!! It is at this point that Cat goes from being a funny, snarky witch with a brain to a TSTL romance heroine without the sense God gave a Nat who finds herself in the middle of [something like] a love triangle with a vampire. Even though she and Lex ‘are in looove.’

*faceplam*

I’ll stop ranting about this section now because I’ll end up spoiling the entire thing…but let’s just say it was about 50% of the entire novel and it all SUCKED ASS. I was shocked and saddened by the way this great story wound up in WTFsville so quickly. I spent the rest of the book screaming and yelling at Cat to stop being TSTL.

And the ending. Can it get any more rushed than that??! The ending was so fast and rushed that I felt like I had whiplash.

I don’t think I’ll continue the series.